Warped Cigars: Bringing the Old Ways into the Future

There's no denying that boutique cigars are having a bit of a moment right now. After the mainstream resurgence of cigars in the late '00s and early 2010s, small-batch blenders are playing an increasingly large role in the market and winning both customers and awards. With so many wonderful handmade cigars to choose from, it's only natural that a lot of us gravitate towards blends that are rarer, even more carefully made, and that break from mainstream trends to carve new paths.

And as two Top-10 awards show, few are doing boutique small-batch better than Warped.

Founder Kyle Gellis grew up fascinated by the cigars his father smoked. He used to cut and light his father's cigars and cigar sessions became a key bonding moment for the pair. After having his first cigar at 16, Kyle never looked back – and started planning to launch his own cigar brand. And it didn't take him long: he started Warped while he was still in college.

But you can't just open a cigar factory and start churning out award-winning blends, no matter how much you love puffing on the greats. New craft blenders need experienced partners – just as Tatuaje had Jose “Pepin” Garcia and Rocky Patel had Plasencia.

Now, a lot of boutique brands start by trying to break the rules and push new boundaries. They partner with major tobacco growers and contract blenders who will give them the widest range of tobaccos to choose from to create new and unusual blends.

Kyle took a different approach.

While in school in Orlando, Kyle went down to Little Havana in Miami and walked down the famous Calle Ocho, passing the sites of countless former factories. Until he found the one last great Calle Ocho factory, El Titan de Bronze. As soon as he walked in the door, Kyle knew that this was where Warped would call home.

Warped would be exclusively different not by following modern trends in order to be “innovative” but rather reviving old methods and using them in new and interesting ways. Slowly but surely he learned the cigar craft under factory owner Sandy Cobas and master-roller Maria Sierra. Soon after, he forged a partnership with TABSA to produce some of his blends to access a higher tier of tobacco. The rest, as they say, is history.

While almost every Warped is now made at the TABSA factory, Kyle still carries on the traditional methods he learned at El Titan de Bronze.

In just over a decade, Warped has become an industry classic and a must-try brand. Here are four of their greatest hits to-date:

Gran Reserva 1988 Robusto

The Gran Reserva 1988 Robusto is Kyle Gellis' crowning achievement, so far. In its first year on the market, it claimed an incredible #3 ranking on Cigar Aficionado's Top 25 Cigars of the Year for 2019. Quite an accomplishment – especially when you consider that “1988” refers to the year Kyle Gellis was born.

Yeah, we're a little mad at him too.

This Nicaraguan puro is incredibly balanced and utterly classic. It is the perfect combination of Kyle's traditional sensibilities and the innovative tobacco cultivation at TABSA/Aganorsa. Eduardo Fernandez is one of the biggest tobacco growers in Nicaragua and hands-down the biggest promoter of boutique blends in the cigar world today, partnering closely not only with Kyle Gellis but also with Dion Giolito of Illusione.

Picking up the Gran Reserva 1988, you can tell that this is a classic with a modern twist. It comes in just the one incredibly traditional Robusto vitola that is rock-hard to the touch and boasts a beautiful brown Corojo wrapper that could not look more classic. But despite the fancy name – which would make you expect a gilded band – the Gran Reserva has a single factory-style band stamped with a small red crown and the number “675212”. No one knows what the number means, but feel free to guess. Overall, it's a great mix of tradition and boutique, small-batch style.

The cigar is so firm because it is stuffed to the gills with a mix of Corojo and Criollo long-fillers. Kyle apparently spent almost three years perfecting the balance and we've gotta say, it paid off.

Breaking the full-bodied trend, the Gran Reserva is a smooth, balanced, easy-going medium-bodied smoke. Each puff brings enormous flavors of sweet cream, leather, milk chocolate, medium-roast coffee, sweet cloves, and maple syrup. It gets drier and oakier as you smoke it down, becoming tangy and nutty rather than sweet. There's a good dose of white pepper to liven up the party as well.

All told, the Gran Reserva 1988 is one of the best cigars you can buy. Period.

Guardian of the Farm Seleccion de Warped

The Guardian of the Farm was Kyle's first hit on CA's Top-25 (it was #8) and the first all-star blend he made with AGANORSA.

It was also a partnership between two young blenders, both of whom know and love their industry. Kyle worked in concert with TABSA-heir Max Fernandez to create one of the best boutique cigars around.

The cigar is named for the two men's dogs and the gilded blue “Seleccion de Warped” band is joined by a more playful black band featuring a jowled but undeniably friendly bulldog.

The Guardian is another Nicaraguan puro made from the best tobaccos that Max's dad can grow. The wrapper is a toothy and spicy Corojo '99 and the unusual 6x44 vitola allows this wonderful leaf to shine.

But this is not a spice bomb in the pepper sense. Instead, baking spices are the stars. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove trade off through each third for a wonderful if palate-tingling medium-bodied smoke. The spices are joined by rich and creamy nuts, from fresh almond to sweet marzipan. Oh and cream. Oh so much cream. The combination is simply divine. There's no denying that Kyle's neoclassical approach to blending has made him the king of the medium-bodied cigar.

Maestro del Tiempo 5205 Lonsdale

Kyle Gellis seems to love thin vitolas that let his stellar wrappers shine. The Maestro del Tiempo is a 6.5x42 lonsdale, a vitola that is definitely old school and seriously showcases the gorgeous Jalapa Corojo '99 wrapper.

Yep, you heard that right. The wrapper on the del Tiempo is the same as the wrapper on the superb Guardian of the Farm and the cigar is another TABSA collaboration. The long-fillers are a combination of more Corojo '99 tobaccos and Criollo '98 leaves. The result is a cigar that is one of the smoothest in the Warped portfolio while also being more full-flavored and full-bodied than most.

The first light brings a brief assault of white pepper but the pepper quickly recedes and disappears completely. After the initial wake-up call, there is zero pepper in the entire cigar. Zip. Zero. In a Nicaraguan Puro – how he pulled that off is anyone's guess.

That doesn't mean that it's an easy-going cigar. There are intense mineral notes that keep things extremely interesting from first puff to last. Dark, rich cedar and creamy cashew dominate the palate, with backup notes of molasses, chocolate, and coffee. And it gets a nice salty note in the last third to kick things up a notch and stop the long cigar from getting monotonous. In fact, the palate develops more over the course of the smoke than most others we've smoked. Maybe it's something to do with the long-and-skinny vitola or the extremely well-aged tobaccos. The strength steadily climbs over each third as well and the cigar reaches the verge of full-bodied by the end.

The Maestro del Tiempo may not be as universally appealing as the Gran Reserva or Guardian of the Farm but it is a welcome addition to the Warped portfolio and a must-try for fans of the brand.

La Hacienda (Cubanesque revival narrative)

La Hacienda was a classic Cuban cigar brand until it shuttered before the Cuban revolution. Now, Kyle Gellis is bringing it back in a big way.

While he launched Warped in 2009, he brought the company onto the international stage in 2014 after he partnered with TABSA. And one of the first releases to launch this new era for the company was La Hacienda. It's the perfect representation of Kyle's modernization of the old styles of blending.

Made in the TABSA factory from 100% Aganorsa Nicaraguan tobacco, La Hacienda is a triple-capped, highly Cubanesque cigar. It is, in many ways, the spiritual heir to the original Tatuaje. And that is no bad thing at all.

The palate is a blend of classic Cuba and new-age Nicaraguan. Graham cracker, clean leather, smooth coffee, and cream saturate your palate for an ultra-satisfying experience. The smoke is incredibly chewy and rich without becoming too heavy: it's still a clean and pure Cubanesque smoke, just with some Nicaraguan power pumping through its veins. Seriously, smoking the La Hacienda reminds us of how it felt to light up a Tatuaje for the first time: it feels like the portent of a new era for cigars.

Check out our full selection of Warped Cigars at your leisure.